Skip to content

Memoir Writing at PSU

Power of WordsWhen I tell people I’m writing a memoir, they usually appear surprised and ask: “Aren’t you too young?”

In 2013, I began writing “Freeligious,” a memoir and narrative nonfiction about my detachment from a charismatic religious sect and community. As a former evangelical, my gradual transition from the Pentecostal community spanned 10 years. The book focuses on identity, power and society with the aim of empowering those who have left — or who want to leave — their religious systems. Since then, I’ve taken a memoir writing course in Seattle, joined a writing group and received attention from media outlets such as Fox News Radio. Around 200 pages later, I realized I still needed help organizing my book.

I decided to take a memoir writing class with instructor and author Paul Collins in PSU’s English Department this winter term. The course has been extremely helpful in not only focusing on creating new content, but organizing my existing work. While the workshops (each student and the instructor reviews the student’s work and provides open feedback) initially can be an uneasy experience, they have certainly been most useful. As a Ph.D. Sociology student, being the only non-MFA student in the course has also helped me learn from others’ writing skills and expertise.

Although some find it unexpected that I’m writing a memoir at a “young age” or while pursuing a doctoral degree in the social sciences, I believe following more than one passion or goal can be most satisfying in life.

If you’re interested in taking a course in PSU’s English Department, visit: http://www.pdx.edu/english/

Out-of-state student on paper, in-state by heart

psu-campusjpg-4b83edcb3bfc9fdfBy: Jasmin Landa

Being an out-of-state student has truly been an adventure thus far. You see, I previously resided in Reno, Nevada, and loved the dry desert mountain land as my home and a place that describes what has raised me, but I felt that life always needs continuous change.

I wanted to make a drastic change that would require me to challenge myself. So I decided to do so during college — a change that would challenge my limits, perspectives and tolerances — all while expanding my cultural competency.

The journey began in the fall of 2014. I packed my bags, said goodbye to those who had helped me become the person I am and embarked on the road ahead to what was going to aid the dreams and aspirations that I so desired to accomplish. From day one, I acknowledged that the journey was not going to be easy by any means, but one in which I would find myself right where I needed to be.

It is now the winter term of 2015, and I have fallen in love with my decision to physically detach myself from what had made me, and attach myself to what would help me “become.”

I have already met wonderful people along this journey, both in and out of class: professors who always find ways to make me laugh and educate me, and the Portland State community at large. Being an out-of-state student brings a fresh perspective in my personal life that will carry me through my tribulations and triumphs.

I am excited, nervous and exasperated about the steps forward in my journey. As I take it day-by-day and opportunity-by-opportunity, I find myself learning and growing in all aspects of my life. I am an out-of-state student on paper, and in-state by heart.

Dating like a grown-up

Charlotte gets it /via taniayasmin.tumblr.com

Charlotte gets it /via taniayasmin.tumblr.com

I have this girlfriend, we’ll call her Katie, who was seeing someone. They would meet up regularly, like every other night at least, and one day, nothing. The guy, we’ll call him Mitchell, said all the right things – the sweet stuff, things about the future. But the morning after? He completely pulled the rug out from under her and back-tracked. No more calls, no more texts, nothing.

What happened? Two kids with the ideas of high school relationships floating in the back of their heads got caught up in the freedoms and naivities of college dating.

Think about how much easier it is to be around your honey 24/7 when you’re an adult especially if you live on campus. Unfortunately, it’s just as easy to completely evade someone you do not want to see.

Instead of being forced to see each other in the hallways of Suburbia High, we’re able to drop off the face of the earth without so much as an, “I’m just not that into you.” But why do we do it? Why do we go from bright-eyed, bushy-tailed dating in high school, to dropping off when we cannot handle the seriousness anymore?

Obviously curing emotional unavailability comes from within, but what about simply making a rule of open communication? That’s what we lack. It’s harder to be a complete jerk to someone when, chances are, you’re going to see them in homeroom or at lunch. In college, we can hide.

Now, high school relationships have their own downfalls. College dating took those downfalls and exacerbated them. Were we too invested in high school relationships sometimes? Probably. Then put those overzealous emotions and inject them into the college world – stress about money, grades, the ever frightening future.

The fears we had when we were 16 – read: this is too serious – blow up in our faces. When you’re 16 it’s a bit easier to say, “well it’s only high school;” but when you’re an adult, the future – particularly the romantic future – feels much more tangible.

I believe that the best advice – and the infuriating – is to be completely honest. If you really like someone, you should tell them. If you want to be serious with that person, you should tell them. If you do not want to be serious with that person, you should definitely tell them.

Our futures are right in our faces, let’s not waste anyone’s time with games.

On Courage and the Humble Compost Pail

By Olivia Clarke

pail

If I stick my head out of my apartment window, I can see that the ground is littered with discarded food: two whole onions, yellow peppers, decomposing noodles. Someone above me has been tossing this stuff out of the window all year. Each time we notice new scraps, my roommate and I look vaguely upward and shake our fists: “How irresponsible!”

Next to that kitchen window sits my new compost pail. Like many students who live on campus, I returned from a final exam last term to find it sitting on my counter, shiny and expectant. It has a convenient handle, and an eye-catching label with instructions that read, “In: coffee grounds, soiled napkins, veggie scraps. Out: liquids, Styrofoam, all plastics.” The pail is straightforward and easy to use. And the thing is, I know that Food Tosser above me has one too. Yet he or she continues to chuck food into the dirt.

But maybe that’s what makes the compost pail so special. The folks at the Campus Sustainability Office know what they’re up against when they try to encourage change: old habits, laziness, lack of understanding. They know plenty of students think composting is gross, and would much sooner throw their scraps in the garbage – or out the window – and forget about them. Nonetheless, here are these compost pails. Stationed in each housing unit on West Campus, they remind me of brave little soldiers, perpetuating Portland’s relentless environmental spirit in the face of all obstacles.

Is it awkward when all the foodcart people know you?

foodcart

By: Zaira Carranza

On the PSU campus there is a food cart for every kind of food you can think of: Thai, Mexican, Mediterranean, Arabic, American and the list goes on. When I am sad I can just go to the nearest food cart and my frown will be turned upside down. When I walk out of the library, I can smell food. The hardest decision is deciding where to eat, because everything is delicious. Needless to say, I have gained 10 pounds my first term of college.

Some of the foodcart owners know my name. Even when they are not working they recognize me on the street. Like many students, I have two jobs and am a full-time student. Basically I’m always hungry and don’t have time to cook. Don’t you think there should be a section in the FAFSA for estimating how much money you will spend on food? It’s where my money goes.

QUIT!

By: Shezad Khan

A lot of us have had jobs we don’t like, and a lot of you currently have a job that you don’t like. My only advice is for you to quit.

ah

It may sound a bit irrational, but quitting my previous job was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Unlike most people, I quit my job before I found a new one. But honestly, it was still worth it. I was in a position where I would absolutely dread going to work every day. I couldn’t stand it. I was fed up with having an unrewarding job. I did more work than most of my coworkers and received no recognition, I was sick of the drama caused by people twice my age, and dealing with some of the worst customers.

I worked for my previous employer for just over three years and my only regret about quitting is that I didn’t do it sooner. I found a new job just a few weeks after I left my old one and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I now work in a place where a huge focus is teamwork. My coworkers and my managers are all awesome, and we’re always recognized for doing good work – I’ve even received three Starbucks gift cards!

Initially, it was my counselor who pushed me to quit my job. She made me realize how unhappy I was there, how much I hated getting off at midnight and having to be up early for school, and how much I hated dealing with the people I had to deal with. If you find yourself in a similar situation where you can’t stand your clientele, your coworkers, or your manager anymore, consider quitting. The thought might be a bit nerve-wracking, but there’s a good chance you’ll be happier somewhere else.

Trust me when I say it’s just not worth it when your job makes you miserable and makes you feel drained physically, mentally, and even emotionally. There’s a better opportunity for you out there. Go for it.

Relating to a ’60s radical

By: Sharon Nellist

I was merely ONE among a sold-out crowd listening to the lovely Angela Davis speak her words of great wisdom in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at Portland State University on Jan. 21, 2015.

20150121_184750 (1)

A year ago when I came to PSU, I never would have thought to attend such an event, simply because I never have before. I also have never thought of myself as a very accurate representative of diversity – I am a white female, how would I make a difference?

Angela Davis told me otherwise.

She spoke about changing the way we see the world by thinking beyond our assumptions – having a broader consciousness because what happens to an individual has worldly reverberations.

She helped me to realize that diversity is not the separation of identity but the coming together of every unique individual.

We are privileged at Portland State University to have an abundance of diverse resources and events to expose ourselves to in our campus community.

IMG_20150123_130756

Lives matter. And the only way to ensure that they matter is to educate yourself, to have a passion and a voice, and people will hear you. As Angela Davis spoke these words, she reminded me that it is my responsibility, our responsibility, simply because we are a member of humanity.

We have to act as if it were possible to change the world – Angela Davis

#PSUdiversity  – to see what people said about Angela Davis’ keynote address at PSU

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 229 other followers